Together, educators at The Mayapple School ensure the maintenance of a high-quality program and are directly responsible for making our school a wonderful place.Whether working with students, parents, or the public, the individuals below each hold an important place at Mayapple.
Melissa West is the Teaching Director and a founder of The Mayapple School. She holds a B.S. from Radford University for Interdisciplinary Studies and a Virginia teacher’s license for General Education, Pre-K through 6th grade. Previous experiences include teaching preschool at The Children’s Garden in Blacksburg, VA and as an environmental educator at Nature’s Classroom in Colebrook, CT. She is also the founder of The New River Valley Outdoor Playgroup. Melissa West grew up on Long Island, New York, and came to the New River Valley after falling in love with the mountains during her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. While teaching, Melissa West facilitates creative challenges that expand students’ knowledge of the world around them, cultivating a classroom spirit of fun and adventure.
Ashton Keffer is the Assistant Teacher at The Mayapple School. She has a B.S. from Radford University in Psychology, and comes to us with several years’ experience working with children. In the past, she has worked as a Teacher’s Aide at Craig County Public Schools, assisted special needs students at a therapeutic riding center, and worked one-on-one with children with autism. Currently, Ashton Keffer also teaches evening tap/ballet classes to children, as well as assists her husband on their family dairy farm. In the classroom, Mrs. Keffer helps to create an environment where children can fully experience the wonder of childhood.
Tacie Jones is the Executive Director at Mayapple’s parent organization, the 501(c)3 non profit, Loco Arts. She holds a BFA in painting from George Mason University, a Virginia license to teach Visual Arts PreK-12, and a Master of Research in Creative Practice from the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Prior to graduate study, she taught middle and high school art at North Spring Academy in Leesburg, VA where she initiated a fine arts program, after-school clubs and activities, and Honors Art. She currently teaches elementary art in the Floyd County Public Schools. Tacie Jones is responsible for important behind-the-scenes work at The Mayapple School, such as fundraising and community outreach. As the founder of Loco Arts, Tacie Jones plays an integral role in creative programs such as summer camps and an Art After School program, which you can learn more about on by visiting the Loco Arts website.
Helen Renqvist is a Substitute Teacher who is called into our classroom on an as-needed basis. In addition to her work with The Mayapple School, Helen Renqvist is the Wednesday morning Librarian at Newport Village Library. Over the years, “Miss Helen” has had a full and successful teaching career, most recently as an English as a Second Language Instructor for Montgomery Public Schools. As a former resident of Finland for many years, “Miss Helen” has unique perspective on multiple education systems and roles; one of her first positions was as a preschool teacher at a Finnish playschool. Her calm, loving, and patient presence in the classroom is always appreciated. Helen Renqvist is the mother of two grown children and lives with her husband in the village of Newport.